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and nothing ever does begin like nothing ever ends

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June 23, 20[][]

“close your eyes!” mateo plugs his phone into his speaker and tosses his capuchin daemon toward nikil. “i’m gonna sic her on your tree frog, dude.”

“my eyes are closed!” nikil sits on the bed, holding jyotsana in his lap delicately. he can’t see her, but he knows edelmira is staring directly at them. “both of you, please relax.”

“you have to appreciate the full effect of the bell solo.”

“the bell solo?”

“hush!” he puts on the song and jumps up next to his boyfriend. “listen.”

the song, in nikil’s opinion, is average at best, but it does have a good rhythm. there’s some line about the length of a guy’s beard, something about women, and losing the ones you love. it’s all highly metaphorical and probably bullshit. “you really need to get into more 80s synth pop.”

“i hate you.”

“got any more shitty indie music to torture our ears with?” jyotsana asks, mustering as much of a smile as she’s capable of.

“as a matter of fact…” mateo flies off the bed again and bounces on his toes as he scrolls through his phone. edelmira climbs up to his shoulder and tugs his ear when she sees what they’re looking for. “we’re making you a playlist!”

“why on earth would you do that?” nikil is giggling, but he has to admit he’s a little flattered.

“it’s because your music taste is shit.” mateo answers, at the same time as his daemon says, “it’s because he’s super gay.”

now nikil is really laughing. “i’m certainly grateful for that. come here.”

mateo rolls his eyes as nikil pulls him closer for a kiss.

“thank you for improving my music taste. and for, well, being gay for me.”

“don’t get sappy on me, sharma.”

“i’m not capable of it, morales.”


July 24, 19[][]

carmen and petra stand at the entrance to an office that they’d thought was abandoned. however, esther roberts, a figure of great power and mystery, is sitting on the desk, feet tucked underneath her. she’s deep in thought, her gaze lost out the window.

it’s silent but for the two girls’ cold-induced whistle-breaths, and they exchange a horrified glance. neither esther, nor ritsa, her milk snake daemon, have noticed them yet, but they always could and there’s no telling what kind of trouble the girls would be in.

petra and ambrosio risk looking into the office one more time, and they glimpse a profound sadness on esther’s face.

carmen tugs on petra’s sleeve, and they slink back to their room together. “holy shit,” she whispers once she’s in the safety of her bed. “that was close.”

“oh, c’mon!” petra can feel the falsity in her voice, but she can’t make it anymore authentic. “would i let that happen?”

“no.” carmen pulls obsesso into her lap and he shifts into a skunk. “we haven’t gotten caught in years.”

“did you see her face?” petra asks, sitting at her desk chair and letting ambrosio lose to fly around the room. they’re still getting used to his new settled form as a harris hawk, but she has so admit she enjoys it.

“she looked… like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. never seen her that sad.”

“never seen anyone that sad.” petra changes her mind about the desk chair and hops into the bed next to carmen. “promise me we won’t end up like that?”

“i promise.” carmen sighs and kicks her feet into petra’s lap. “gosh.”

“hmm?”

“i’m so tired.”

“take a nap?” petra isn’t anywhere near sleep herself, but she doesn’t mind letting carmen use her as a pillow.

“yeah.”

for a moment, petra think carmen’ll ask her to sing, like she did when they were little. but she doesn’t and instead rests her head back and closes her eyes.

petra holds out her hand and ambrosio lands on it.

he nuzzles into her neck and pecks her softly on the cheek. “you okay, petra?”

“i guess.”


August 14, 1943

lou grabs david’s hand and lifts him up from the ground. “ready to march again?”

david laughs, dusts himself off, and picks up his pack. “yes, sir.”

it’s silent for a while as they walk with the rest of their unit, emmeline flying in circles overhead, and torial matching them stride for stride. david speaks first, reaching down to scratch his cheetah daemon under the chin as he does so. “scale of one to ten, how much do you believe in this war? uh, sir?”

lou casts a circular glance around to make sure no one is listening, and david can see exactly why emmeline settled as an owl. “i’d give it about a 4.”

“really?”

“listen. the magisterium… they’ve always been like this. they’ve always been this controlling, this demeaning, this cruel even, and most of us just turned a blind eye to it cuz we believe in the same god.” he shrugs, and continues, “but i do love my country. even if it’s full of hypocrites.”

“that’s fair.”

“and we gotta help those who need us.” he nods, a bit like he’s giving himself his own stamp of approval and turns to david. “what about you, son? you here because you believe?”

it takes him a minute to think it over. he’d asked lou to get him talking, loving the way his captain spun the threads of his mind in the air. “in all honesty, sir, i believe in this war. i believe in new denmark’s place in this war. the—“ he hesitates. “the ads all want us to focus on the fighting, and i do believe we’re fighting the good fight. but this is as much about helping the hebrew people as it is helping our allies.”

“marian, do you get a lot of shit for your daemon?”

david exchanges a look with torial, and nods. “yes, sir. because he’s male.”

“and i know you get just as much crap as me for not being a white boy.”

david chuckles, and agrees to that too.

“this is the kind of thing that’ll teach you to look out for other people. maintain balance and all that. or it’ll turn you into a sloppy asshole who pisses all over himself cuz he got his ass handed to him too many times.” emmeline lands on his shoulders and pecks him gently. “but you’re a good man. and you got the right ideals about this battle.”

“thank you. sir.”


November 25, 1946

“oh, yeah, he was a hot slice.”

“stop that!” bridget hits ted with her couch pillow. “please, dear god, stop saying ‘hot slice.’ it’s abhorrent.”

“have you found any sugars lately?” he asks, grinning and wiggling his eyebrows as he dodges her second attack.

“no! no one who’s interested in more than ‘one unforgettable night,’ or whatever the hell it is they’re calling fuck and runs these days.”

ted sputters at her for a moment. “so i’m not allowed to say ‘hot slice’ but you’re allowed to say ‘fuck and run?’”

“yes.”

his yorkie daemon runs around in circles yapping and bridget can’t help but giggle.

hell,” he finally says, “seriously, woman, when are you gonna marry me?”

“tomorrow? at the courthouse? are you free?”

“wait, forreal? or are you messin’?”

she exchanges a glance with galené. they’d talked about this already, and they’re pretty set on it. “we joke about it all the time, but really, it would be beneficial to both of us. and i wouldn’t want to marry anyone but you.”

“iazza,” ted calls, and she hops up onto the sofa. “tell bridget how crazy she is.”

“bridget,” his daemon chides, “we can’t just get married at the courthouse. it has to be an event.

lené snorts. “what, like a real white gown affair?”

“hell yeah.” the tiny dog wags her tail.

“sure,” bridget shrugs. “i never thought i’d get that kind of wedding.”

“you’ll get that all that and more,” ted promises, “and you won’t even have to have sex with a man on your honeymoon.”

“sounds incredible.”